U.S. cash crude differentials rose on Thursday on thin trading volumes, traders said. The physical market was relatively quiet, outside of a couple of grades, while the paper market seemed much more active.
The rise came after Genscape reported that crude oil inventories in Cushing, Oklahoma, increased by more than 3 million barrels in the four days to Feb. 10, suggesting government data released next week could show the biggest ever weekly build
It also came on the expiration date of the front-month Brent crude futures contract.
West Texas Intermediate futures expire on Feb. 20.
Meanwhile, the largest U.S. refinery strike since 1980 entered its 12th day on Thursday, with no talks scheduled between the union and industry representatives until next week. One refinery said it would remain shut down until the strike ends.
In the physical market, traders said most of the activity was in the Gulf Coast trades. In particular, Light Louisiana Sweet <WTC-LLS> for March delivery at St. James, Louisiana rose some 40 cents in the day and traded between $4.40 and $4.60 a barrel over the front-month light-crude contract.
Mars Sour <WTC-MRS> into Clovelly, Louisiana, also rose 40 cents and traded between 35 and 45 cents a barrel over U.S. crude.
For inland grades, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) at Midland <WTC-WTM> edged up 5 cents and traded at 60 cents under the U.S. crude benchmark.
West Texas Sour <WTC-WTS> rose some 10 cents and traded at 50 cents a barrel under WTI.
In the futures market, U.S. crude gained $2.37 to settle at $51.21 a barrel while international Brent rose $2.39 to settle at $57.05 a barrel.
The premium for Brent over U.S. crude <CL-LCO1=R> widened to $5.84.